Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Who’s in the mix for final spots in Browns DBs room?

It’s been a rainy June, and we’re treading water in a sea of your pertinent questions.

Let’s take a look at four of them on this Friday, the longest day of 2019.

Concerned the Browns seemed to ignore the OL during the draft. You think what they have in camp is good enough? -- David L., Copperas Cove, Texas

I very much do. Cleveland used one of its picks on an offensive lineman, sixth-rounder Drew Forbes, and he figures to be in the mix for one of the eight or so available spots in Cleveland’s offensive line room when rosters are trimmed to 53. The real work to improve the room was done in free agency, when general manager John Dorsey attacked a perceived weakness -- general depth behind the starters on the offensive line -- with the signing of three veterans -- interior swing-men Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann and tackle Kendall Lamm. The addition of multiple players with real experience gave the Browns the luxury to tinker with a number of different looks at right guard -- the spot occupied by Kevin Zeitler for the past two seasons -- throughout OTAs and minicamp. This allowed offensive line coach James Campen to evaluate not only who might be his best option as the starter, but also who are the most versatile players to round out the group. Even with the release of tackle Desmond Harrison, the Browns appear to be in a solid enough of a position when it comes to depth along the offensive line. There will be some tough decisions to make at the end of the preseason.

How many cornerbacks will the Browns have on their 53-man roster and could Donnie Lewis or one of the undrafted cornerbacks make the team? -- Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

The typical number is somewhere around six and is usually followed by the addition of four safeties to a 10-man defensive backs room. That can vary, of course, and will be dependent on how the coaching staff evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the overall group. 

There are some clear favorites at cornerback, of course, led by the likes of Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell and T.J. Carrie, all of whom were starters (when healthy) for most of last season. Rookie Greedy Williams had a great spring, working a large part of it with the first-team defense, and has his eyes set on a regular spot in Cleveland’s defense. That gets you to four. The last two or so selections will need to not only be good enough to step in at cornerback whenever the team needs them, but also valuable to the team’s special teams efforts. Tavierre Thomas, for example, was a standout on special teams last year and maintained a roster spot from start to finish without having to play much at all at cornerback. A couple others to monitor are Phillip Gaines, a midseason waiver claim last year who was re-signed in the offseason, and Lenzy Pipkins, who worked a lot with the second-team defense in the spring. Donnie Lewis, Cleveland’s seventh-round selection, has yet to see the field because of a foot injury he suffered in the pre-draft process but should be available for training camp. Among the undrafted corners, a player like Jhavonte Dean out of Miami could be someone to monitor. A tryout player, Dean has simply made a ton of plays whenever given the opportunity.

The Browns' roster as of June 13, 2019.

We haven't heard anything about the kickers in minicamp. How is Austin Seibert doing? -- Gary S., Cleveland

Seibert had a solid spring and will look to maintain it during training camp and preseason, when the two-man kicker competition really kicks into gear. Perhaps Seibert’s most impressive moment of minicamp came on Day 1, when he sprinted on the field during a drill that forced the team to execute a quick field goal and calmly nailed a 48-yarder through the center of the uprights. Greg Joseph had a solid spring, too, and he won’t go quietly in a competition special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said won’t be affected one bit by Seibert’s draft status. The moment Cleveland picked Seibert in the fifth round, Priefer assured him he’d have to compete for his roster spot.

In the sixth round, the Browns drafted "Prospect X," Drew Forbes. Ever since draft day and the day he was named "Prospect X," I have not heard anything about him. Where is he playing at minicamp, and how is he doing? Is he living up to his title? -- Amir A., Kansas City

Forbes split his time between tackle -- the position he played all throughout his high school and college career -- and guard -- the position most projected he’d play whenever he landed in the NFL. Forbes admitted this week he’s probably best-suited for guard and was growing to love the position. The final determination, though, will come during training camp, when the Browns get a look at their offensive line in full-contact drills. The release of Harrison made Cleveland a little thinner at tackle, seemingly increasing the possibility of Forbes sticking at his old position, but coach Freddie Kitchens assured they wouldn’t pigeon-hole him into a position just because of the team’s overall depth.

“We try to see how many guys that we have and see how versatile all of them can be,” Kitchens said at the end of minicamp. “You may see him (at left tackle) at some point. Right now, we are trying to find Drew a base of the offense and a base of his knowledge and things like that. Once you have it and you can speak it, then you have to go do it. That is what we want to develop with Drew first and foremost.”

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